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lineages, you could not readily change your membership of
a local group, preventing individuals from entering or leav-
ing speci¬c-purpose, limited associations (see above). It is
simply impossible to generalise on this scale. Anthropologi-
cal research shows bands, lineages and clans are all to some
degree ¬‚exible in membership. Richard Lee wrote that the
Dobe !Kung (Ju/™hoansi) hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari
desert ˜move from camp to camp with distressing frequency;
some alternate among two or more waterholes . . . others
move right out of the Dobe area several times a year or for
years at a time™ (Lee 1979: 42). Particular clusters of peo-
ple have a history of association with one waterhole varying
from a few years to several decades but, according to Lee,
it rarely extends back to the grandparental generation of the
oldest living people. Individuals may choose whether to join
their mother™s or father™s band. Such ¬‚exibility is essential
for hunter-gatherers living in an unpredictable environment
subject to local drought. Descent groups among pastoralists
and subsistence farmers seem more durable, but M. Glickman
(1971) and Michel Verdon (1982) demonstrated that lineages
among the cattle-herding Nuer of the southern Sudan absorb
non-kin who have lived in the village long enough to become
accepted as members, while former lineage members who
move away are forgotten. Gunter Schlee (2002) describes
the Somali clan system as one in which the weak seek to
attach themselves to the powerful. If the lineage model cannot
embrace them, he writes, they can be attached by contract.
The primary consideration governing the durability of social
relations is whether individuals need to invest in social access
to resources for a long-term return. The hunter-gatherers
Order and anarchy
22
of the Kalahari invest in wide-ranging social networks that
allow them to move from band to band, thus avoiding the risk
of local drought and violence. Peasants, and even swidden
cultivators, invest in land and crops, while pastoralists invest
in collective rights over herds. Contract-based industrial
employment renders this kind of investment of social groups
unnecessary and, if dispossessed of land, impossible. Peo-
ple do not suddenly acquire a rational civic consciousness;
shifts in access to resources dictate different social
strategies.
Gellner retreats to some extent from his rigid characterisa-
tion of pre-modern society when he discusses Islam. Follow-
ing Ibn Khaldun, he notes that rural communities had some
independence from the centre, and could periodically reform
urban decay. The rural hinterland provided ˜a kind of political
womb of cohesive communities, well able and indeed obliged
to defend and administer themselves: these could also run a
larger state when given the chance by the decline of a previous
dynasty. The state was a gift of the tribe to the city™ (Gellner
1994: 84). However, Gellner also contends that, since tribes
are not equipped to run a bureaucracy, ˜society is ruled by
networks, quasi-tribes, alliances forged on the basis of kin,
services exchanged, common regional origin . . . still, in gen-
eral, based on personal trust . . . rather than on . . . a de¬ned
bureaucratic structure™ (27).
Jenny White (1996) challenges Gellner™s view that civil
society must be based on contract. White agrees that ˜In urban
Turkey, voluntary associations, grass-roots protest actions
and other forms of civic activities often are organized on the
basis of mutual trust and interpersonal obligation, rather than
on an individual, contractual membership basis. Trust and
reciprocity characterize communal life in general™ (White
1996: 143). But, she insists, civic action is not today based
Civil society and social cohesion 23
on ˜primordial™ ties of clan, tribe or family. It is created
through the free choices of individuals, who decide whom to
associate with among their acquaintances and in their com-
munity. This network creates a space in which women can
act publicly without leaving the privacy and security of
communal and gendered roles. The web of already existing
community ties is the foundation of a civic culture upon
which both Islamic and secular groups build organisational
infrastructures among the working class.
Sami Zubaida (2001) looks more critically at civil society
in the Middle East, agreeing with White that the traditional
associations in the Middle East have been reconstituted under
modern conditions as tribal, religious and village associations
in cities, but conceding that urban civil society in the Middle
East has strong illiberal tendencies (Zubaida 2001: 242).
Hann argues that the ethnocentric de¬nition of civil society
relied on by Western agencies damaged the way assistance was
provided to post-socialist regimes in Eastern Europe. Com-
munities that had just endured a massive experiment in social
engineering under socialism were then subjected to an equally
idealistic experiment in social engineering in¬‚icted upon them
by foreigners. A speci¬cally Western concept of civil soci-
ety, based on contractual associations and individual agents,
was exported to people who may prefer their own traditional
associations. The positive aspects of socialist government”
state support for pensions, education or health”are lost, but
nothing is put in their place. ˜Huge numbers of postsocialist
citizens feel they enjoyed a more civil society under the old
regime than they do today™ (Hann, personal communication).
Hann suggests the effect of Western intervention may even
be to strengthen loyalties based on kinship, religious or ethnic
identity in reaction to the crudities and abuses of the foreign
NGO sector.
Order and anarchy
24

lo c k e an d f e rg u s on : t h e o r i g i n s o f t h e
c on c e pt o f ˜ c i vi l s o c i et y ™
Political thought during the Enlightenment
Until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, European
kings had been believed to rule by divine right, and human
society was supposed to reproduce, on a lower scale, the divine
society of Heaven. These assumptions were questioned during
the Enlightenment, when philosophers rejected divine law and
appealedtohumanreasontodeducehowsocietyshouldbestbe
organised. Once people considered themselves free to decide
for themselves what was, or was not, proper social behaviour
it became possible to ask both how actual societies might
be improved, and how present societies had diverged from
the natural or original human condition. Both the European
past and more exotic, but living, human societies were
seen as sources of information that could help answer these
questions.
Thomas Hobbes (1588“1679), who was at one time tutor to
the future King Charles II, experienced the disorder caused
by the English Civil War at ¬rst hand and asked what it was
that holds a society together. Hobbes envisaged the opposite
condition to centrally regulated social life as one of random
disorder, in which people sought their own self-preservation
by trying to control others. Such a condition would be a war
of every man against every other man, and life would be ˜soli-
tary, poore, nasty, brutish and short™ (Hobbes 1970 [1651]: 65).
Hobbes imagined that people living in such a condition would
therefore be compelled to choose a leader, or sovereign, and
surrender suf¬cient of their personal freedom to the sovereign
to give him the power he needed to uphold a social contract.
People would only be willing to work for the general good if
Civil society and social cohesion 25
they could be con¬dent that anyone cheating would be pun-
ished by law. Hobbes™s main aim was to construct a logical
opposition between order and disorder, rather than to iden-
tify an actual condition against which contemporary European
society could be assessed (Hill 1958: 271).
The philosopher John Locke (1632“1704) argued that
people possessed ˜natural rights™ that they were entitled to
defend against an oppressive state. Implicitly directed against
Hobbes, Locke™s overt target was Robert Filmer (d. 1635),
who championed the divine right of kings and traced the ori-
gin of royal authority to the power a father held over his
family in ˜primitive times™. Locke countered that women are
not naturally subjugated to men. Marriage is a contract made
for the purpose of raising children and either partner has the
right to withdraw. ˜Men living together according to reason,
without a common Superior on Earth with Authority to judge
between them, is properly the state of nature™ (Locke 1960: 280,
his emphasis).
Hobbes and Locke had little empirical evidence to sup-
port their reconstructions of the natural human condition.
Eighteenth-century writers had more reports to draw upon,
particularly descriptions of native society in the Caribbean and
North America. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712“78), a diplomat
and citizen of Geneva during the last years of the feudal ancien
r´gime, imagined humankind had probably originated as soli-
e
tary individuals, satisfying their meagre wants immediately,
but rarely, if ever, coming into contact with one another. He
noted that contemporary peoples in the Caribbean appeared
to have no concept of private property or market exchange.
Rousseau guessed that people formed an association when nat-
ural sources of food began to be depleted and people turned
to agriculture; banding together to defend their tilled land
against others who wanted to annex it. ˜All ran headlong to
Order and anarchy
26
their chains, in the hopes of securing their liberty™(Rousseau
1963 [1755]: 205). The Scottish social philosopher Adam
Ferguson (1723“1816) more perceptively understood that
humans are intrinsically social. He countered that a wild man
caught in the woods is no more representative of humanity™s
original state than an eye that has never seen anything. A wild
man would probably be as defective as an organ that had never
performed its intended function.
Adam Seligman (1992) and Keith Tester (1992), writing
on civil society in the wake of the collapse of East European
socialism, have misrepresented the way the concept was ¬rst
formulated in Locke™s Two treatises of government (1689) and
Ferguson™s An essay on the history of civil society (1767). Neither
Locke nor Ferguson claimed civil society was a new phe-
nomenon. Tester, on the other hand, gives what he describes
as a simple or even simplistic de¬nition of civil society: civil
society is the milieu of private contractual relations; relations
that go beyond the family, yet are not of the state. He concludes
that ˜civil™ is implicitly opposed to ˜barbaric™. Civil society is
made by civilising social relationships. Other, non-Western
societies were therefore, by de¬nition, uncivil (Tester 1992:
8“10). Tester is perpetuating the nineteenth-century notion
of progressive social evolution. He is right to point out that
Locke™s representation of contract as the basis of human soci-
ety universalises the bourgeois property holder (Locke 1960:
288, Tester 1992: 44). But this does not justify going to the
other extreme and asserting that people have no freedom
to enter into or leave social relationships in pursuit of their
self-interest in societies other than those built on commercial
capitalism.
Seligman contends that the idea of civil society emerged
during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in response to
a social crisis, and has re-emerged in the late twentieth century
Civil society and social cohesion 27
in response to another crisis (Seligman 1992: 15). Seligman
argues that in the seventeenth century the commercialisation
of land, labour and capital, and growth of the market economy,
led political theorists to replace the notion of binding traditions
with that of a social contract. Seligman, like Gellner, therefore
dates the origin of civil society to that time. The discovery
of non-Western societies where life was organised differently
also called into question the ˜naturalness™ of European social
life. Tester is correct to point out that the question, ˜what holds
society together?™ was a particularly pertinent one in Europe
during the period the divine right of kings was rejected, and
commercial capitalism overturned feudalism. But Locke™s and
Ferguson™s interests were wider than an attempt to understand
the unique condition of ˜modernity™. Contrary to Tester™s
claim, that was not the ¬rst time ˜the voluntary associations of
independent, mannered and civilised individuals were actually
occurring™ (Tester 1992: 125), and nor do Locke or Ferguson
suppose it was (further examples of pre-seventeenth-century
contractual relationships are given below).
Locke™s sociological method, shared with Thomas Hobbes
and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, was to discover the natural human
condition. Once the supposed natural condition had been
established, the condition in which people actually live could
be measured against this reference point. Locke wrote his Two
treatises to refute Filmer™s argument that the natural social con-
dition was one of ˜patriarchal authority™ in which kings could
trace their power to Eve™s original subjugation to Adam. Locke
argued the contrary. ˜We are born free, as we are born rational™
(Locke 1960: 95). The liberty of acting according to our own
will, not from compulsion by the will of others, is grounded on
the possession of reason (309). Unlike Hobbes and Rousseau,
Locke recognised that humans are intrinsically social. The nat-
ural condition is a social one. ˜The ¬rst Society was between
Order and anarchy
28
man and wife™ (Locke 1960: 318“19, emphasis in original).
Contrary to Seligman™s representation (Seligman 1992: 22),
Locke clearly thought that contracts exist in the state of nature.
The marriage contract is made either by the partners them-
selves ˜in the state of Nature, or by the Customs or Laws of the
Country they live in™ (1960: 321, my emphasis). According to
Locke, the state of nature has two distinctive characteristics.
First, people rely on self-help, rather than appeal to delegated
authorities, to defend their property. Second, parties to a con-
tract formulate the terms of the agreement among themselves.
Locke clearly considered civil society to be an aspect of the
natural human condition (contrary to Laslett 1960: 107“8 and
Seligman 1992: 22). Adam Ferguson, as we have seen, also
took the view that humans are intrinsically social. ˜Mankind
are to be taken in groupes, as they have always subsisted™
(Ferguson 1995: 10). Like Locke, Ferguson did not con¬ne
reason or civil society to mercantile capitalism.
For Locke, the natural condition ends and political soci-
ety comes into being when people surrender their right of
self-help ˜into the hands of the community™. The community
˜comes to be Umpire, by settled standing rules, indifferent,
and the same to all parties; and by Men having Authority
from the Community, for the execution of these rules™ (Locke
1960: 324). The community now sets the terms of contractual
agreements. Those who belong to a particular political soci-
ety share a common law and recognise the same authorities to
resolve disputes (324). It is absolutely clear that Locke does
not regard civil society as something that had recently come
into existence. Equally, the state of nature is an ever-present
possibility: ˜Want of a common Judge with authority, puts all
Men in a State of Nature™ (Locke 1960: 281). ˜™Tis plain the
World never was, nor ever will be, without numbers of Men
in that State™ (276).
Civil society and social cohesion 29
Locke de¬ned property as a resource that has been taken
from the state of nature and improved by labour (Locke 1960:
288). Locke™s account may misleadingly suggest he associated
the origin of property with the enclosure movement (that
regarded common land as unowned) and therefore something
that originated in his own time (see Laslett™s editorial footnote
to Locke 1960: 288). But Locke recognises that foragers can
own property: ˜He that is nourished by the Acorns he pickt
up under an Oak, or the Apples he gathered from the Trees in
the Wood, has certainly appropriated them to himself™ (288).
Locke is not wide of the mark: Lorna Marshall (1976) wrote
that among the !Kung (Ju/™hoansi) of the Kalahari the person
whosearrow¬rstwoundsagameanimalisobligedtodistribute
the meat among households in camp. However, meat once
distributed and vegetable foods once gathered become private
property. One man was killed for stealing honey from a bees™
nest that had been found and marked by someone else. As
the historian Peter Laslett concludes, ˜It is gratuitous to turn
Locke™s doctrine of property into the classic doctrine of the
“spirit of capitalism”™ (Laslett 1960: 106“7).
Ferguson, like Locke, did not con¬ne reason or civil society
to mercantile capitalism. ˜The inhabitants of a village in some
primitive age, may have safely been intrusted to the conduct of
reason™ to regulate their own affairs (Ferguson 1995: 63). The
Iroquois Confederacy of the seventeenth and eighteenth cen-
turies was described by the French missionary and anthropol-
ogist Joseph-Francois La¬tau (1681“1746). The Confederacy
¸
linked six Native American nations, including the Mohawk
and Seneca, who united to defend their rights in the fur trade
and block the movement of European settlers into the interior
of what is now New York State. Iroquois women cultivated
crops, and rights to land were transmitted through women.
Men, who hunted and engaged in the fur trade, joined their
Order and anarchy
30
wives™ lineage. Ferguson (1995: 64) concluded that the Con-
federacy was rationally sustained. We tend to exaggerate the
misery of barbarous times, Ferguson comments, because we
imagine ˜what we ourselves should suffer in a situation to
which we are not accustomed™ (103). Every age has its con-
solations. In barbarous times, persons and properties were
secure, because everyone had a friend who would protect one,
according to maxims of honour and generosity (104).

Evolution as progress?
Auguste Comte (1798“1857), who has sometimes been iden-
ti¬ed as the founder of sociology, argued that society cannot
be reduced to its component individuals. Institutions are like
organs in the body of an animal; the function of the part
is determined by its place in the whole. This has become
known as the ˜organic analogy™. Herbert Spencer (1820“1903)
developed this analogy during the middle years of the nine-
teenth century, regarding social progress as the consequence
of the evolution of social systems. Spencer considered that
societies develop like animal or plant organisms. In contrast
to Darwin™s theory of natural selection, in which random
variations between individuals in a population have differ-
ent consequences for survival in a particular environment,
Spencer™s theory postulated an internal dynamic driving pop-
ulations toward increasing complexity (Spencer 1972 [1857]:
39). Spencer and Comte associated the evolution of society
with the evolution of thought, from irrational superstition to
rational science. The view became dangerously embedded in
early twentieth-century sociology and can be detected in the
work of the German sociologist Max Weber (1864“1920), to
whom we refer below.
Ferguson differs from Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau in
constructing a sequence of stages in the evolution of human
Civil society and social cohesion 31
society. But they are stages in the evolution of property,
from savagery (hunting and gathering) to barbarism (nomadic
herding), not stages in the evolution of rationality. The only
property of a hunter-gatherer is his weapons, utensils and
clothing. Because hunting is collective, game once caught
belongs to the community, as do the crops that the women
plant and harvest collectively in native North America. Nor
is that state based on ignorance: ˜Men are conscious of their
equality, and are tenacious of its rights™ (Ferguson 1995: 83).
Ferguson did not see the commercially oriented country
in which he lived as the epitome of rationally organised civil
society. On the contrary, he was concerned that civil society
seemed under threat. Far from tracing the origin of civil society
to the eighteenth century, he was worried about its disappear-
ance. ˜Ruder™ nations tend to succumb to the better-organised
armies of more civilised nations, but this does not justify
an assumption of superiority (Ferguson 1995: 94). In com-
mercially based societies the national spirit may be neglected
because people rely on the agencies of the state to uphold
social order. Society thus becomes increasingly divided into
separate callings, ˜and society is made to consist of parts, of
which none is animated with the spirit of society itself . . . Men
cease to be good citizens™ (Ferguson 1995: 207). The members
of a community, like those of a conquered province, lose their
sense of kindred or neighbourhood, and have no common
affairs to transact except those of trade. ˜The mighty engine
which we suppose to have formed society, only tends to set
its members at variance, or to continue their intercourse after
the bonds of affection are broken™ (24).

Self-interest and social relationships
Seligman agrees with Ferguson that a commercial economy
did not necessarily promote social cohesion (Seligman 1992:
Order and anarchy
32
138). It is, however, questionable whether Seligman repre-
sents Ferguson correctly when he writes of ˜the central and
growing realisation [in the eighteenth century] that man is
motivated by two divergent and contradictory principles “
altruism and egoism™ (Seligman 1992: 26). This is a Weberian
proposition (Weber 1947: 116). It is true that Ferguson writes
at times as if it were only our inherent sociability that checks
self-interest. If humans were primarily concerned with their
own subsistence, he argues, we would be reduced to the level
of animals, in which other people were merely useful or detri-
mental. In fact, we value social relationships more highly
than subsistence (Ferguson 1995: 35“6). Elsewhere, however,
Ferguson puts forward the stronger argument that people
enter into social relations out of self-interest. Before the state
assumed responsibility for upholding the law, people owed
their safety to ˜the warm attachment of their friends, and to
the exercise of every talent which could render them respected,
feared or beloved™ (211). ˜Intangled together by the recipro-
cal ties of dependence and protection, . . . the subjects of
monarchy, like those of republics, ¬nd themselves occupied
as members of an active society, and engaged to treat with
their fellow-creatures on a liberal footing™ (71). In a more

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